September 10, 2010

Good journalism will survive in Web world

Media come, but do they really go? Not when they are of high quality and provide a true value to their communities.

There’s little doubt that the news business is influx and that the journalism profession is evolving. It’s a scary time to be a journalist. In Colorado, the wounds left by last year’s closure of the venerable Rocky Mountain News are still fresh for those still in the industry – and those recently out of it. Thinner papers littered with shared national content are a dire reminder of the digital shift and its impact on the centuries-old profession.

More recently, the University of Colorado School of Journalism and Mass Communication announced that it would initiate a “program discontinuance process.” The school is forming an exploratory committee to develop an interdisciplinary program that will marry information, communication and technology.

“Many of our peer universities have already responded to the challenges of the networked Information Age in different ways,” CU Interim Provost Russell Moore said in a prepared statement. “More than 30 schools and colleges have been created across the nation to respond to the changing media and communications digital landscape including UC-Berkeley, Washington, Rutgers, Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, Michigan and Wisconsin.”

Strange that a university booster would be going out of his way to point out that the school is not doing anything innovative. Perhaps that has been an industry-wide affliction. Journalism, in general, has waited too long to catch up with the breakneck advance of technology.

But that’s not necessarily fair – generalizations are easy but not always accurate. The evolution has been under way for years at my alma mater, Colorado State University. The Journalism and Technical Communications Department at CSU started transitioning courses in the 1990s, according to a message from Chair Greg Luft posted on the department’s website. The first computer-mediated visual communication course was added in 1996.

By the early 2000s, when I was in attendance, news-editorial track students had the option of taking a course in online journalism or a rather crude website development course based on a platform in Web browser Netscape (remember Netscape?).

Evolution continues

Luft explains that the department started development of its technology-based communication concentration in 2001, and the evolution of the program has continued. Looking at the current list of courses offered through CSU’s program, I’m comforted to see that the stalwarts of media ethics, news writing and advanced reporting remain on the agenda for up-and-coming journalists. At the same time, it’s also a comfort to see education advancing with the times, with the addition of courses like computer-mediated visual communication, convergence and hypermedia, and new communication technology and society, teaching future disseminators not only how to use new media, but also why.

“We recognize that change is inevitable, adapting isn’t easy work and when we teach, we also have to learn,” Luft wrote. “The foundation of this curriculum will continue to create a strong sense of journalistic responsibility, with an emphasis on the development of excellent writing and editing skills. That stays the same. But by their junior year, every student also will be expected to understand multiple hardware platforms and software programs. They will leave the program knowing how to communicate across media platforms and venues.”

After six years as a reporter for the Northern Colorado Business Report, I recently decided to make “the move,” taking a public relations position at Fort Collins-based OtterBox. For many in the field, the transition to the PR realm is inevitable. For me, it was more about the opportunity to be a part of the growth of an exciting, seemingly recession-proof company than it was a jump from the sinking ship of traditional media.

I truly believe there will always be a place for publications like NCBR that provide in-depth local coverage. You get your news from blogs now, you say? I ask you where most blogs are garnering their stories – probably from one of the local print publications.

Did video really kill the radio star? I still listen to the radio. In fact, I listen to songs on the radio all of the time, but I rarely see a video anymore (thanks, MTV!). The Internet isn’t going to kill the journalist; journalists will just squeeze into some leather pants, grunge up their hair, learn some ridiculous dance moves and carry on. And everyone else will continue to consume what they produce.

Kristen Tatti was born the year after MTV, and covered banking and technology for NCBR until last month.

Media come, but do they really go? Not when they are of high quality and provide a true value to their communities.

There’s little doubt that the news business is influx and that the journalism profession is evolving. It’s a scary time to be a journalist. In Colorado, the wounds left by last year’s closure of the venerable Rocky Mountain News are still fresh for those still in the industry – and those recently out of it. Thinner papers littered with shared national content are a dire reminder of the digital shift and its impact on the centuries-old profession.

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